Import Rules Allowing Ban of GMOs May Be Adopted in EU
The European Commission is proposing new rules that would allow the European Union’s individual member states to ban the importation and sale of genetically modified crops, known as GMOs, for “non-scientific reasons.”
Trade officials in Washington, D.C. and several major agricultural trade promotion groups said the plan could wreak havoc on agricultural exports to the 28-nation trade bloc and set a precedent of erecting a series of non-tariff trade barriers.
“We are very disappointed by the announcement of a regulatory proposal that appears hard to reconcile with the EU’s international obligations,” says U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. “At a time when the U.S. and the EU are working to create further opportunities for growth and jobs through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, proposing this kind of trade-restrictive action isn’t constructive.”
Froman worries that the proposed GMO plan could undermine domestic support in the U.S. for reaching a deal with the EU on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, a feeling shared by Chip Bowling president of the Missouri-headquartered National Corn Growers Association.
“The regulatory proposal announced this week would move the EU further from a reasonable, science-based approach to biotechnology approvals, making international trade partners subject to the whims of agenda-driven, emotionally charged activists,” says Bowling.
If enacted, he says, “the policy would not only harm potential markets for U.S. growers, it would harm consumers across the EU. Potential restrictions would deepen the divide between markets and create a patchwork system of laws which, much like proposed state restrictions in the United States, would be a train wreck.”
The 21,000-member American Soybean Association issued a statement saying, “the action taken by the EU Commission earlier this week that would allow each of the EU’s member states to ‘opt-out’ of allowing imports of a fully approved, safe GM product is a giant step backwards.”
EU TRADING PARTNERS PROTEST THE PROPOSAL
The proposal could have a significant impact on animal farmers in Europe. They rely on soybean animal feed imported from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the U.S., 90 percent of which are genetically modified. The four countries exported $12.5 billion of soybean products to the EU last year, 90 percent of the bloc’s total imports.
The proposed GMO action has drawn a backlash of criticism not only from the U.S., but from several of the EU’s other trading partners who have said the proposal could run afoul of World Trade Organization international trade mandates.
“We have some serious concerns on the potential outcome of such a revision” to the biotech rules, wrote the Canadian, Argentinian and Brazilian ambassadors to the EU to the European Commission earlier this month. “We trust that the commission will ensure that any options under consideration are fully consistent with the EU’s WTO obligations.”
Numerous studies commissioned by the European Commission (EC) have repeatedly found that most biotech crops are safe for the environment and for human consumption. But only one variety, a corn engineered by U.S.-based biotech giant Monsanto, is approved to be grown in the EU.
Earlier this year, the EC finalized rules that allow individual nations to ban biotech crops from being grown on their own territory, even if they are approved by the commission.